Briefing by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the Bina airport prior to his working visit to the Western European countries - April 21, 1996

The cooperation between the European Union and Azerbaijan has already begun. We have taken steps and negotiated for setting this cooperation for a long time. At last, the EU decided that at the Luxembourg meeting of foreign ministers of the EU member-states on April 22 the treaty on admission of Azerbaijan, as well as Georgia and Armenia to the European Union would be signed. Though it is a preliminary treaty, it is of historical significance since it is the first big step of Azerbaijan`s admission to the European Union.

It has both economic and political importance. It is a new stage in the development of democracy and market economy in Azerbaijan. Thus, I attach a paramount importance to that treaty. Prior to my visit we discussed this issue here in Azerbaijan. I believe it is a historical event for Azerbaijan. While being in Brussels I will visit the headquarters of NATO. As you know, Azerbaijan joined the NATO “Partnership for Peace” program on May 4, 1994. I signed the relevant document at that time. The document on Azerbaijan`s joining “Partnership for Peace” will be introduced there. We will have meetings there, too.

Afterwards, I will be heading to Norway. Recently the relations between Norway and Azerbaijan have been developing rapidly. You are aware that Norway`s Statoil takes part in exploitation of oilfields in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea as a consortium member. We closely cooperate with them. I will pay a formal visit to Norway by the invitation of the Norwegian government. The negotiations on development of the relations between Norway and Azerbaijan will be conducted and a number of documents will be signed there.

I am confident that all these steps and events strengthen Azerbaijan`s independence and demonstrate it worldwide. They also display Azerbaijan`s unique position in the international arena.

Question: What do you think of the extradition of Ayaz Mutallibov to Azerbaijan?

Answer: People must not escape from their country. Even if there are some illegal actions, it is better to admit them in front of the authorities rather than to seek asylum abroad. In this case, both Mutallibov and Rahim Gaziyev committed crime. Therefore, they have been hiding abroad for a long time.

As you know, Rahim Gaziyev was detained by the Russian law enforcement bodies and extradited to Azerbaijan. He is now in the hands of the Azerbaijani law enforcement bodies. Mutallibov has been arrested and kept by the Russian law-enforcement bodies. In my opinion, it obviously proves the close cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan, including our law enforcement bodies. It demonstrates the friendly relations between Russia and Azerbaijan. We highly appreciate these relations and do our best to develop them in all spheres, including economic and scientific-technical. By the way, the days of Azerbaijani culture will start in Moscow on April 23. We consider the Azerbaijani-Russian friendship an important factor in our foreign policy.

As far as Rahim Gaziyev is concerned, he escaped from the isolation cell of the Ministry of National Security, left Azerbaijan illegally and hid in Moscow. Undoubtedly, he must answer for his actions. As for his appeal on pardoning, our court is just. If the convicted understand and regret their actions, they are treated mercifully. He may also be treated like this.

As I am aware, Mutallibov is not charged by the article that implies capital punishment. So this kind of punishment can not be applied to him. As for his overall responsibility, I think he must return to homeland and stand before court of justice. The court will treat him fairly and mercifully.

Question: Can we learn your opinion on rumors about Azerbaijan`s compromises for extradition of the wanted?

Answer: These are fabrications. Interstate relations, especially our relations with such a close and friendly country as Russia can not be based on casual factors. These rumors are simply fabrications. I have also noticed that the Russian press spreads these rumors. It even surprises me. We closely cooperate with Russia. This is not a conjectural cooperation and does not depend on extradition of some criminals. If the interstate relations between our countries were based on those principles, it would put down both Azerbaijan and Russia. I think the level of both Russia and Azerbaijan is much higher than some casual cases.

We actively cooperate with Russia. We are members of the CIS. Our cooperation within the CIS is successful. We also actively cooperate with Russia in joint exploitation of the Caspian oilfields. Russia`s LUKoil is part of the international consortium. Last January I and Russian Prime Minister Mr. Chernomyrdyn signed a treaty in Moscow on transport of initial oil from Azerbaijan via the Russian port of Novorossiysk and the Black Sea. We have other large-scale and interstate projects on cooperation. Personalities of Rahim Gaziyev and Mutallibov are insignificant comparing to them.